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03 February 2010

Iran Urged to Inform U.N. Agency of Position on Nuclear Deal, February 3, 2010

By Stephen Kaufman
Staff Writer

Washington — Iran needs to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on whether it has changed its position toward a proposed agreement that would enable it to have its uranium supply enriched for use in a Tehran medical research reactor, according to Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley.

Crowley spoke to reporters February 3, one day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly said his government has “no problem” with sending his country’s uranium outside Iran for enrichment.  These developments come three months after the IAEA and the so-called P5+1 group of countries (Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States) proposed a deal that would provide Iran with enriched uranium for medical research while also ensuring the uranium would not be enriched to a level that could be used for nuclear weapons.

Crowley said it is “unclear” to what Ahmadinejad was referring February 2. 

“To the extent that the president is offering a new perspective on the Tehran research reactor arrangement that was offered to Iran last fall in Geneva, you know, we will look forward to hearing about the Iranian position through the IAEA,” he said. 

“If, as he suggested, Tehran is willing to move forward to accept the arrangement that has been offered … this would be of benefit to the Iranian people; and it would clearly be welcome news,” Crowley said.  “The real question is whether this represents a ‘yes’ and whether Tehran is willing to communicate that to the IAEA.”

Crowley also denied the Iranian leader’s February 2 assertion that there are negotiations occurring between the United States and Iran over the exchange of some prisoners.

“There are no negotiations taking place between the United States and Iran regarding a prisoner swap,” he said.  The United States has repeatedly called on Iran to release U.S. citizens it holds in custody, including American hikers Sarah Shourd, Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer, who were arrested near Iran’s border with Iraq in July 2009, as well as Iranian-Americans Reza Taghavi and Kian Tajbakhsh.

“We [also] remain concerned about the whereabouts of Robert Levinson, and have communicated that through a protecting power in Tehran repeatedly,” Crowley added.

The assistant secretary said that there are Iranian citizens being held in the United States and the Obama administration is “willing to entertain … questions and facilitate consular access, if that's what Iran desires.”  However, he rejected the idea of an exchange, saying there is no equivalence between “an Iranian citizen who has been indicted and/or convicted of arms trafficking, in violation of … international law, and three hikers who wandered across an unmarked border.”

If President Ahmadinejad is suggesting a willingness to “move forward and resolve the issues surrounding U.S. citizens in Iranian custody,” the United States would “obviously welcome … that opportunity,” Crowley said.  But “we're not interested in a swap, per se.”

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